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Peter Harvey: God’s ‘nuisance’ in the Outback

Another opportunity to bring church outback

Ask Patrol Minister Peter Harvey to describe his work, and the answer may not be what you’d expect:

“Generally, I make a nuisance of myself for God,” he says.

In a nutshell, that means getting himself involved in just about everything he can in the Flinders Patrol area, 300,000sq km of sheep and cattle grazing properties, some mines and a number of small towns out from Hughenden.

“The Patrol area offers tremendous variety, with floods in the south-east and drought in other parts,” he said.

Peter makes a nuisance of himself in many different ways.

“My main job is trying to get to know, and be accepted by, as many of the station people as I can, and I have had positive contact with around 150 in the past 12 months,” he said.

He also accompanies Frontier Services’ Remote Area Families Services teams from Longreach, Emerald and Mareeba when they are holding playgroups on remote properties in his patch.

Peter also links up with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to attend clinic days on properties and is closely involved with the School of Distance Education at Charters Towers.

Sundays find him looking after the Uniting Church congregation in Hughenden.

Peter came to his role after working as a Minister in north-west NSW in the 80s and 90s and then serving 12 years as a Defence Force chaplain.

.”The call back to full-time pastoral ministry was strong,” Peter said.

He’s pleased with the reception he’s had in the Patrol area.

“I haven’t had a knockback yet when I’ve asked to drop in on a property and many people invite me to stay overnight,” he said.

“For many farmers, the stock and station agent might be the only person they see each month and they might only get to town with the same frequency. They really appreciate someone who’s prepared to come to them and share their lives.”

Peter sees himself as a communications channel for these people to both the physical and spiritual worlds:

“Life is not just about livestock and fencing for people on properties. There is a real spiritual side in their connection to the land.

“They are confronted by God every day in the life and death struggles they witness and the awesome space they live in,” he said.

Peter also shares his clients’ strong spiritual connection to the country:

“I am constantly in awe of the wonder and beauty of this creation,” he said.

“Sometimes I stand on top of my 4WD and can’t see a tree in any direction. Other times, I’ll be looking over spectacular hills and gorges.”

And what’s Peter’s biggest reward in the job so far?

“I am constantly impressed by people’s resilience and openness,” he said.

Photo : Another opportunity to bring church outback